British oil major BP lobbied the US administration to roll back key climate regulations on methane emissions, despite claiming to support the Paris Climate Change Agreement signed in 2016.

According to an investigation by Greenpeace’s investigative journalism project Unearthed, BP opposed and helped reverse rules preventing the release of millions of tons of methane from US oil and gas operations.

Unearthed found that BP head of regulatory affairs Robert Stout Jr. wrote to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposing methane rules in December 2015. In this letter, Stout claimed the implementation of methane leak detection and repair systems would be “very costly and labour-intensive to implement.”

He added: “The proposed rule would now mandate the testing of literally tens of thousands of well components at many thousands of wells, widely dispersed and often located at remote sites across thousands of miles.”

Stout also wrote to the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning methane venting and flaring restrictions in April 2016. In this letter, Stout cited similar cost and labour concerns, suggesting that “the best policy course overall would be for the Bureau to hold off promulgating additional methane regulation.”

Following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in February 2017, BP renewed its opposition to the EPA and BLM methane rules. In March 2017, Stout wrote to the Trump administration outlining that “if these rules are not repealed by Congress, [BP] believe[s] they should be reconsidered or revoked.”

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The Trump administration rescinded the BLM and EPA methane regulation rules in September 2018. According to BLM’s estimates, these decisions could increase methane emissions by 1.78 million tons over a ten-year period. EPA’s analysis of the changes predicts an increase in methane emissions of up to 480,000 tons from 2019-2025.

US Senate environment committee member Sheldon Whitehouse said: “BP claims to support a price on carbon emissions, but spent millions to defeat a price on carbon in Washington State.

“In yet another example of corporate doublespeak, BP claims to support limiting wasteful methane leakage and flaring, yet lobbied against a common-sense rule to do just that. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not.”

Greenpeace UK oil campaigner Charlie Kronick said: “Only last month BP’s chief economist dubbed the company an ‘ethical investment’, but these findings expose just how preposterous this claim is. BP are the Jekyll and Hyde of the oil industry, ostensibly paying lip service to climate action while actually sabotaging vital climate regulations.

“Their mask has truly slipped. BP cannot claim with a straight face they support the Paris Agreement and efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”

BP says on its website that it is “committed to taking a leading role in addressing the methane challenge.”

BP CEO Bob Dudley was among the ten oil and gas CEOs who established the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) in 2014, making a ‘milestone declaration’ in October 2015 to support efforts in reducing global warming.

In response to the investigation, BP said: “BP has long supported well-designed regulations that complement voluntary efforts by companies to address this challenge [of methane emissions].

“We have consistently advocated for regulation of methane emissions by one federal agency – the Environmental Protection Agency—rather than an inefficient patchwork of different federal or state agencies. Thus, we suggested that the duplicative methane regulations by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management should be repealed and the EPA regulations should be kept in place but improved.”

“BP will continue to advocate for well-designed, cost-effective federal methane regulations that can help us control emissions and advance a low-carbon future.”